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26th April 2023

Beyond the Bimbo: Can the Barbie movie redefine female stereotypes?

We consider the implication of the new Barbie film on the image of pretty women – will it perpetuate already degrading stereotypes, or subvert them?
Beyond the Bimbo: Can the Barbie movie redefine female stereotypes?
Photo: Dolls ‘n Stuff @ Flickr

In the film industry, there is always a buzz around the latest releases, and the Barbie movie is no different. The bright colours, memorable characters, and celebrity actors pay homage to many people’s childhood, thus making the film one of the most anticipated releases of 2023. However, the trailer has also raised concerns about the perpetuation of the degrading, anti-feminist bimbofication trope.

The emergence of the ‘bimbo-look’ has often been negatively stereotyped in media. This stereotype often depicts women as ‘ultra-feminine’ with a preference towards figure-hugging clothing and typically ‘feminine’ colours, such as pink. Bimbofication has also become intertwined with the ‘dumb blonde’ character in modern media, who often prioritise looks and popularity over intellect. When thinking about who conforms to this description, characters such as Means Girl’s Karen Smith and The Wolf of Wall Street’s Naomi Lapaglia spring to mind.

Karen Smith is portrayed as the quintessential ‘dumb blonde,’ who is obsessed with her appearance and lacks any intellectual depth. While Karen’s character is meant to be a caricature, it is reflective of the pervasive stereotype that associates blonde hair and short, often bright pink, outfits with stupidity.

Naomi Lapaglia is a trophy wife, who is more concerned with her looks and social status than her husband’s illegal activities. There is a fear that Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Barbie will retain some of these attributes. Despite attempts to modernize the character and focus on her intellectual curiosity about the real world, questions remain as to whether the bimbo look will resurface following the film’s release.

However, it’s possible the Barbie movie’s portrayal of Barbie may redefine the bimbo-like character by portraying her as both smart and fashionable. The Greta Gerwig film promises to bring fresh perspectives to the beloved character, depicting Margot Robbie as a confident and stylish Barbie with a curiosity for the real world. This film could serve as a positive influence on its young viewers by redefining the notion of a bimbo-like character and bringing back the iconic Elle Woods type, who is known for her fashion sense and bubbly personality, but also her tenacity and intelligence – what ultimately leads her to become a successful lawyer.

In many ways, the redefinition of the Bimbo is already occurring. The term ‘bimbo’ has been replaced by ‘Barbiecore’ on social media. This new term is beginning to gain popularity on TikTok and sees a shift in societal views whereby women can retain the ‘bimbo’ fashion sense, but also maintain other positive attributes.

The upcoming Barbie movie has the potential to redefine the bimbo-like character and bring back the iconic Elle Woods type. The film’s portrayal of Barbie as both fashionable and intelligent could inspire young girls to embrace their individuality and pursue their passions. While media should not be solely responsible for shaping young girls’ perceptions, the Barbie movie could serve as a positive influence on its young viewers.

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